My company has a bit of an intranet stuck on the back of our websites, which is incomplete, buggy and all-in-all, a complete piece of crap.
I know what I’d like. I’d like a nice AJAX-style desktop on the front page, I’d like a Trumba-style calendar, an online-project management system, a CRM sales system, a news aggregator and so forth.
In a recent post, I mentioned Trumba and how they’re supposedly now focusing on being a calendar engine company rather than a calendar provider themselves. So I went back and got a new Trumba account and started round with publishing a Trumba calendar on my Intranet. Unfortunately, Trumba has still got a way to go for them to get where I want to see them be. It’s still the case that while you can publish your calendar to any website, to really manage your calendar you need to do that from the Trumba website itself.
So then I had an idea. Rather than embed the published calendar into my Intranet, I just put the whole Trumba website in an iFrame under my Calendar tab on our Intranet. And you know what it works a treat. There’s a bit of wasted real-estate with the Trumba banner that I could do without, but that aside it doesn’t look too out of place and because it remembers who I am, I generally don’t need to log in again.
I was then going to just publish our group calendar to the front page of the Intranet but then I had another thought. I ditched the front page we had and used an iframe to make an AJAX desktop the welcome screen. Both Google Personalised Home and NetVibes worked really well. Google Desktop is good if you use the personalisation widget which lets you strip out the Google logo, customise the colours and compact the screen to save real estate. NetVibes just works well without much effort at all, although it doesn’t have the range of Widgets that Google Desktop does.
What NetVibes does have is a really great iCal calendar widget though. So I just fed it my Trumba iCal URL and wham, I can see my upcoming appointments from my new NetVibes-powered Intranet front page. In fact, there’s not much I can’t feed into NetVibes via RSS these days. It’s not always exactly what you want, but you can get an idea of updates and launch straight through to the content.
(I just wish NetVibes would re-do their To Do widget. It’s awful. Please guys, take some of that new VC funding and put it into what is surely a critical widget for all).
The iFrames/RSS/AJAX desktop combination has worked so well but I’d love to see more Web 2.0 companies accomodate it. Publish a version of yout site without your big banners, have RSS on everything or build widgets and badges that can be cut and paste into pages or plugged into an AJAX desktop.
But more importantly, one of the AJAX desktop companies needs to run with this. You need to let businesses or individual create their own widgets and also enable them to be used without having to publish them publicly. Google Desktop already seems to do it and as much as I love NetVibes, it’s probably going to pull me over to the Google way unless they make this process nice and easy.
There’s even a revenue model for all those AJAX desktops out there if you do this right. For my Intranet, I’d like to “lock down” a couple of the widgets. We have a few pieces of information that I don’t want my team to be able to remove or even move around their desktop. If NetVibes or someone similiar delivered on what I’m after, I’d be happy to pay a per-user fee to get my own company version of NetVibes with locked-down widgets that I can just iFrame into my intranet.